Same-sex couples will be able to have their civil partnership or marriage blessed in Church in Wales churches for the first time if new legislation is passed next month (September).
A Bill to authorise a service of blessing will be considered by members of the Church’s Governing Body at its meeting on September 6.
It proposes that the service be used experimentally for five years and that it will be up to individual clergy to decide whether or not they wish to lead it.
The service is for a blessing only as same-sex couples are unable to marry in church.
The Bill is being introduced by the Bishops, following an indication from Governing Body members that it was now “pastorally unsustainable” for the Church to make no formal provision for those in committed same-sex relationships.
In the Explanatory Memoradum they say, “Approval of this rite would be stating that the Church in Wales accepts that the loving and faithful commitment of two persons of the same sex, aspiring to life-long fidelity and mutual comfort, and who have made a commitment in civil partnership or marriage, is worthy of acceptance by the Church by asking God’s blessing upon their commitment.”
While recognising that the Bill is controversial, they describe it as a “step on the way towards repentance of a history in the Church which has demonised and persecuted gay and lesbian people, forcing them into fear, dishonesty and sometimes even hypocrisy, and which has precluded them from living publicly and honestly lives of committed partnership.”
The bishops are urging Governing Body members to debate the Bill in a respectful and dignified way, acknowledging that it will raise difficult issues of faith and belief. They have issued a set of ‘Pastoral Principles’ intended to guide people towards thoughtful and considerate discussions.
Introducing them they say, “There can be no room for seeking to undermine sincerely held views. Neither should we seek to walk away from each other. Our union in Christ is at the heart of our life and the bonds and character of our baptism hold us together; sharing a commitment to each other as together we seek the Kingdom of God. We hope these materials will stimulate this quality of engagement.”
The Bill will be voted on in all three orders of the Governing Body – the Bishops, the clergy and the laity. It will need to achieve a two-thirds majority in each order for it to be passed.
The discussion and vote will be held on the first day of the Governing Body meeting which takes place on September 6 at the International Convention Centre Wales in Newport and will be live-streamed via a link on the Church in Wales website and Youtube channel. The second day of the meeting will take place online only, via Zoom, on Wednesday, September 8 and will also be live-streamed.
Other items on the agenda include:
- An address by the President, the Bishop of Bangor Andy John
- An update on the Church’s progress to its carbon zero target
- A plenary discussion on how the Church should emerge from Covid-19
- A presentation on resources for ‘life events’, such as christenings, weddings and funerals, with Canon Dr Sandra Millar, head of life events for the Church of England
- An update on plans for a Year of Biblical Literacy in 2022